Five Grounding Techniques To Stay Focused

Tips To Keep The Mindful Awareness During Lockdown

By Silvi Demirasi

For most of us, the mind is where we spend most--if not all--of our waking hours. It is the treehouse from which we weather the rain, shine, and sometimes, the foggy delirium. We can even grow so disoriented up there, with our constant consumption of our thoughts and feelings, that we begin to forget what it feels like to have both feet planted on the ground.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with existing in our heads (after all, it does seem to be our factory setting), the rewards we’d reap from leaving the treehouse now and then are rife with all of the things that promote well-being: focus, vitality, stability, balance, and more. To offset this “heady” inclination, we can set aside time to reconnect with our body and, by extension, the space around us. The following techniques give us the opportunity to lower the ladder and find some footing. Even if just for a moment.

1. Box Breathe Like an Expert

Box breathing is a simple, yet powerful relaxation technique. The Navy SEALS use this technique to quickly calm the autonomic nervous system, and, well… if it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for us and our workplace drama. Box breathing begins with a four-second inhale, a four-second hold, a four-second exhale followed by one more four-second hold…before starting the cycle once more. Try for 4 minutes. This technique is the perfect recharger with no chance of the jittery aftermath our second coffee usually gets us.

2. (Slowly) Walk It Off

For some people, a walking meditation is something that can only be practiced within a stone’s throw of an aging Hinoki cypress tree… or among a cluster of cherry blossoms blushing in the crisp spring air. Not so. Walking meditation, with all of its enigmatic aura, can be practiced in the confines of one’s home. But don’t just take our word for it. Here is some simple & prescriptive guidance to start:

1. Designate an area (like a hallway) as your walking space.

2. Start walking slowly down the hallway. Pay attention to your breath as you walk. Practice this for 30 seconds or so.

3. Begin to synchronize a set number of steps to your in-breath and your out-breath. (A good place to start is three steps for every in-breath and four steps for every out-breath.)

4. Adjust accordingly depending on the natural duration of your inhale and exhale.

You may only be walking for a minute before your drawn-out movements take on a graceful force of their own. Like yoga, a walking meditation has the capacity to not only reconnect you to your body, but also to the ground beneath your feet. This can transform our mood and focus. And for that, we thank you, feet.

3. Engage in a Solo Dance-Off

One of the fine (and often underutilized) perks of working from home is that, at any point, you can stop whatever it is that you’re doing, put on music and just start flailing your limbs with complete abandon… I call these moments, if sustained for long enough, power fives. (Though it may be genuinely difficult to cap these sessions at five minutes once you’ve found your momentum.)

Dancing effectively releases some of that agitated, anxious energy that you probably didn’t even know you had. For some of us, restlessness does not always manifest physically. If your dance moves feel forced at first, it just means you’ve been inhabiting your mind for a bit too long. Give yourself time to get into the groove. I suggest trying it for two songs back-to-back.

4. Set Aside Space to Doodle Mindlessly

This technique is all about connecting you to your hand and your hand to the paper in front of you. With doodling, your chicken scratches don’t need to mean anything. And you can resist the urge for the logical side of the mind hoping to make sense out of "what it all means". Allow it to be just a line or some squiggles, that lets you move the energy within. Build an empire of squiggles if you are so inclined. Add color. Use watercolor or crayon. (Or both. Nothing’s off limits.) Convert your desk space into an art station if you are so fortunate to have the real estate.

Set 5 minutes to breathe and squiggle away, and see how you feel after. A creative practice such as doodling is a great way to draw a firm boundary (pun intended) against our inclination to mentally over-extend ourselves.

5. Partake in a Tea Meditation

When it feels like your mind is being pulled in a million different directions, it might just be time to remove yourself from your browser and head to your nearest source of boiling water. With its aroma, temperature and subtle flavor, a cup of tea can be met as a sensory experience of its own. In mere minutes, tea can do wonders for frayed nerves or scattered focus. Gazing into the mug of a steaming herbal blend tends to really simplify things, even if for a nanosecond. It brings us into that soothing sensing part of the mind.

If you would like a bit more direction with your tea meditation, Robert Holden, a British psychologist, proposes meditating on the following thought: “What’s it like to be me when I don’t want anything?” Just giving it the mere consideration should help conjure a state where you feel complete or at peace with what already exists within. If that alone does not entice you, another wonderful side effect, of course, is your tasting brain will reconnect you back with your body. And voila, you're a bit more grounded.